Reese Werkhoven, Cally Guasti, and Lara Russo found tens of thousands of dollars inside of a $20 Salvation Army couch, and they nearly missed out on it. “We almost didn’t pick that couch. It’s pretty ugly and smells, but it was the only couch that fit the right dimensions for our living room,” Russo told The Little Rebellion, a student-run publication at SUNY New Paltz.
The students ultimately bought the piece, and shortly after taking it home, they began cash-finding envelopes under cushions and arm rests. “Just when we thought we pulled out the last envelope we’d find another $1,000 a few minutes later,” said Guasti. All told, it added up to $40,000.
After deliberating for a while, they decided to find the owner and return the money. One envelope had a name on it, and the group eventually tracked it to a woman in the Hudson Valley who asked not to be named. The Little Rebellion explains how the widow lost it:
Her husband had a heart condition and knew his time was limited. Before he died, he gave her money each week to put away for when he passed. For 30 years she stored her savings inside an old coach in the television room where she slept. When her husband passed away, she remained working as a florist and continued to store her money in the couch, until she had an operation on her back and went to a rehabilitation center for several months.
Upon the woman’s doctor’s advice, the woman’s daughter and son-in-law replaced the couch she used to sleep on with a full-size bed.
The woman gave the students a $1,000 reward for the couch’s safe return. No word on why she didn’t simply buy it back from Salvation Army in the first place.